Psychological Warfare

By Conrad MacLean

You are taking a car ride with your sister and your Uncle. Your sister has really been getting on your nerves because she’s a pathological suck up. If somebody who she perceives to be powerful makes a statement like ‘what a lovely day’, she’ll jump in with something like ‘Oh my god! Yeah! I was just thinking that!’

Let’s play.

You know the local farmers in the area are supporting a cull on badgers. Badgers are a pest or something. Your sister is planning to protest the cull with her friends. You know your Uncle is in full support of the cull.

“Uncle,” you ask. “What did you say your thoughts were on this badger cull?”

“Oh it’s something that needs to be done; they dig holes and make it hard to plant crops.”

Your sister looks uncomfortable. She will never argue with Uncle but she will sit silently and listen. She’ll squirm.

“I hear people play loud music outside the badger burrows,” you say. “And when the badgers climb to the surface to investigate the noise, they wack them with shovels. Is that still a widely used killing method?”

“Wouldn’t surprise me,” says Uncle.

“Tell me more about why we need to cull them.”

If your sister does try to change the subject you gently bring the conversation back to your Uncle’s rant. You stoke the fire gently to keep him talking.

“Oh and you were saying the farm animals break their legs in the badger holes, Uncle.”

You watch your sister out of the corner of your eye.

“They break their legs in the badger holes, yeah, it’s a massive problem; of course these hippies protesting the whole thing don’t know what the hell their talking about.”

“Fascinating, tell me more!”

Your sister gives you a death stare and murmurs “why are you doing this?”

Uncle is oblivious to the full situation and continues talking.

Doing a Tony Clifton

You’ve pissed off your peers. Perhaps you’re about to be fired, or your co-workers are building a work place complaint case against you. Maybe your housemates are going to call an intervention and ask you to find somewhere else to live because you never do your dishes or pay your share of the rent.

Before the work place hearing or the share house intervention can be arranged you call a meeting of your own. Sit each member of the aggrieved party down together. Talk how much you value them and give each one a token of what they mean to you. (Like a small stuffed plush puppy doll or an acrostic poem you’ve written about each individual at the meeting.) Let’s see them get rid of you after that.

“why are you doing this?”

Plausible deniability

You are twelve years old. You’re in primary school and recess has just ended. On your way back to class you see that teacher you hate.

It’s fun to stare at this teacher during recess to freak him out.

The teacher has painted a line on the ground. He’s telling who ever will listen that this line signifies the school boundary. Anybody who steps over the line gets in trouble. It’s petty but it’s something the teacher seems to care about.

You put one foot over it, saying “oops.”

The teacher stares at you.

You step back and forth over the line saying in bored voice “Oh no! I’ve stepped over the line. Somebody stop me before I do it again.”

The teacher knows better than to react but you know from experience you can make him crack. “Oh stop me, dear teacher,” you drawl. “Mend my wicked ways before I step over the line again. I can’t help myself. I’m devoted to a life of sin.”

Finally the teacher goes for the bait and leads you off to the principal’s office.

The principle obviously thinks this is petty but humours your teacher.

“Do you know why you’re here?” the principle asks you.

“No! I have no idea; my teacher just led me here. I don’t know what for!”

The Principle tells you to wait outside his office. You hear him talking to your teacher inside.

“What can I do?” the principle asks “he’ll deny everything. You can’t prove anything and he’ll complain to his parent that we pick on him.”

“He always does this!” your teacher fumes.

The principle calls you back into his office and says “leave Mr Watson alone.”

Life-size teletubbies in the real world. Photo by: Madura McCormack

Life-size teletubbies in the real world. Photo by: Madura McCormack

Sideways, Into Eternity

The forest glowed a vibrant green, the rich scent of animals and wood, decay and sunshine mingling beautifully. Scott walked beneath the boughs that reached far above, listening to the sounds of the birds. Dappled sunlight broke through the canopy, laying shifting patterns on the leaf litter underfoot. A deer ahead heard Scott approach and darted away, dancing from step to step, a spring uncoiling.

The sound of laughter and merriment gradually rose above the ambient noise of the forest, coming from a small campsite of men in earthy greens and browns. They welcomed Scott warmly, with wide arms and open smiles. He joined them a while, drinking and carousing, before whispering something to their leader and taking his leave. Once out of sight, he found a shadow and slipped into it, into the in-between places. Slipped sideways, into eternity.

Eternity swallowed him as an old friend, its cool embrace familiar and comforting, his step stretching out longer and longer. After a moment, an hour, a minute, Scott stepped out into the light rain, a gentle drizzle that slowly worked its way down the back of his neck and shoes. The city was grey and dismal, dark clouds hanging low and brooding over intermittent spires and flat roof slats.

He stepped under an overhanging eave and covered his nose to block out the smells that ran down the street like rivers, the fetid stench of unwashed bodies pressed too close together and human waste. Lightning crackled in the clustered clouds, forks of light spearing the sky for far too brief a time. This was no place for him.

Scott regretted the deal he had made. He knew something was wrong at the time, but had been too excited to care. The man had been so nice, his too-white coat matching his too-white teeth. The prospect of being able to slip out of time, through time, between time, landing anywhere and anywhen… how could he refuse? But now… now he was tired.

Scott found an open doorway and stepped inside. Stepped sideways, into eternity.

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